The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time for 2020 Democrats in Detroit debate




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Tuesday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, find us at @asimendinger and @alweaver22.

Crunch time has arrived for the 2020 Democratic presidential field as the second series of debates kicks off tonight in Detroit and candidates look to give their bids a shot in the arm as they push to qualify for the September debates. 


While he won’t partake in tonight’s affairs, the attention is squarely on former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Trump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr MORE as he looks to rebound from a shaky performance just over a month ago in Miami and reestablish himself as the unquestioned front-runner for the Democratic nod to take on Trump next year. 


While Biden has made a point to fully embrace the work undertaken by the Obama administration, that philosophy is showing some cracks ahead of the debate as he is expected to take shots on a number of fronts stemming from actions while he served as former President Obama’s top deputy. Among them are the administration’s record of deportations and treatment of immigrants at the border and his full embrace of the Affordable Care Act as some of his rivals embrace a version of “Medicare for All.” 


As Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes write, Biden has wrapped himself in the 44th president, from using the same campaign songs to his telling of folksy stories on the campaign trail about their enduring friendship. When Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (D-N.J.) questioned the former vice president’s record on race and criminal justice, the former vice president shot back that the nation’s first black president would not have tapped him as vice president if there were questions lingering on those issues.


However, Biden has seemingly adopted a go-it-alone game plan. He said last week during a fundraiser that he won’t use Obama as a “crutch” in his campaign and that his bid is not a “continuation” of the Obama-Biden administration because there are “new problems” on the scene that did not exist at that time. He is making it a point to look to the future as he endures criticisms that he is a candidate of the past and a bygone era. 


As Biden readies for his turn on stage on Wednesday night, he is buoyed by multiple polls that continue to show him in the lead. According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, Biden leads nationally by 19 points, taking 34 percent support. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (D-Mass.), who will find herself taking center stage tonight, sits second with 15 percent (The Hill). 


While much of the attention is on this round of debates, some campaigns are looking ahead to September with the goal of reaching the increased threshold for inclusion at the next debate in Houston. 


Having already met the polling prerequisites, Booker announced Monday that his team reached the 130,000 donors needed to put him on the stage. Andrew YangAndrew YangYang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations Biden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events MORE also announced that he qualified after earning 2 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. He had already met the donor requirements, making him and Booker the seventh and eighth candidates to qualify (CNN).


Heading into this evening, 2020 campaigns released a number of policy proposals on all kinds of topics. Warren stayed true to her claim that she has “a plan for that” Monday, announcing her plan to rewrite how trade deals are negotiated (CNBC). Looking for a boost, former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Impeachment enters new crucial phase Bullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate 2020 hopes rise for gun control groups after Virginia elections MORE announced his plan to strengthen rural communities, including an expansion of broadband access (The Hill). 


As for Harris, she released her own “Medicare for All” plan, drawing attacks from Biden and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE (I-Vt.) (The Hill). 


Along with Warren, those taking part tonight are Sanders, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Chicago Mayor Lightfoot to Buttigieg: 'Break that NDA' to have 'moral authority' against Trump Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden: All-white debate not representative of party, but 'you can't dictate' nominee Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down MORE (D-Minn.), Hickenlooper, Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanGM among partners planning .3B battery plant in Ohio San Francisco 49ers suspend announcer after reference to quarterback's 'dark skin' More than 100 Democrats sign letter calling for Stephen Miller to resign MORE (D-Ohio), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyDelaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events Krystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates 2020 Democrats thank Harris for friendship, candidacy after senator drops out MORE (D-Md.), Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonDemocrats take in lobbying industry cash despite pledges Chicago suburb to use recreational marijuana sales tax to fund reparations program: report The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Witness dismisses 'fictional' GOP claims of Ukraine meddling MORE and Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached Steve Bullock exits: Will conservative Democrats follow? MORE, who will be making his inaugural debate appearance. 


The debates are scheduled for 8 p.m. CNN will host this go-around, with Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperCNN Pelosi town hall finishes third in cable news ratings race, draws 1.6M Defense secretary fires Navy chief over SEAL war crimes case Democrats look to next steps in impeachment MORE, Dana BashDana BashJudiciary Democrat: House impeaching Trump not a 'foregone conclusion' Judiciary Democrat who worked on Nixon impeachment says alleged Trump misconduct is worse Klobuchar says she's not worried about leaving campaign trail for impeachment trial: 'I meet whatever obstacle is put in front of me' MORE and Don LemonDon Carlton LemonBiden urges senators to have 'courage' for impeachment trial Biden lashes out at Graham on Ukraine: 'I'm just embarrassed by what you're doing' CNN's Don Lemon: I'm not some partisan liberal Democrat MORE serving as moderators.


Politico: Warren and Bernie’s awkward truce faces its biggest test yet. 


The New York Times: Why Joe Biden’s age worries some Democratic allies and voters.


George F. Will: Some questions for the Democratic candidates.


NBC News: What 2020 Democrats learned from their first debate and how some are sharpening their attacks for the second. 


McClatchy: CNN’s Jeff Zucker once feted Kamala Harris. Will that help or hurt in 2020?


The New York Times: Ahead of debates, Pennsylvania Democrats lean more pragmatic than progressive.





CONGRESS: With the president’s selection of Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump, first lady take part in National Christmas Tree lighting Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing House Republicans on Judiciary strategize ahead of Wednesday's impeachment hearing MORE (R-Texas) to replace Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFormer US intel official says Trump would often push back in briefings Hillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Intelligence agencies have stopped collecting cellphone data without warrants: letter MORE as director of national intelligence, attention now turns to the Senate, where there are questions over a relatively unknown lawmaker.


When asked about Ratcliffe’s expected nomination on Monday, many Senate Republicans chose to say little. 


“I don’t know him. I haven’t looked at his background,” said Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump Statesmen seek bipartisan solutions to big challenges Georgia ready for unpredictable Senate race MORE (R-Utah). “I’ll be looking forward to doing a review of his qualifications and experience, but not having known him before now, I really can’t comment on his nomination.”


“I don’t know John. I’ve met him a couple of times, seen him on TV,” said Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties Both sides have reason to want speedy Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Wis.), adding that he still has to examine his background. 


One senator who spoke highly of Ratcliffe is Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHere are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements MORE (R-Fla.), who noted that he has gotten to know the Texas congressman on a personal level, though he doesn’t know a ton about his record either. 


“Everywhere he’s ever been he’s done a good job and is a smart guy, professional,” Rubio said when one reporter inquired if Ratcliffe was too partisan for the job. “I don’t know how my colleagues feel, obviously. We’ll have some work to do,” he added.


As The New York Times notes, Trump and Senate Republicans have little margin for error if Ratcliffe is nominated. Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Democratic congressman calls for study of effects of sex-trafficking law McConnell says he's 'honored' to be WholeFoods Magazine's 2019 'Person of the Year' MORE (R-Ky.) is unlikely to support any nominee for the post, meaning they can lose only two GOP votes if Democrats oppose him unanimously.


As for Democrats, they didn’t waste any time. Speaking on the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE (D-N.Y.) labeled Ratcliffe a “partisan shill,” adding that it would be a “grave mistake for the Senate to elevate this partisan warrior” to serve as director. 


As Morgan Chalfant and Olivia Beavers write, Ratcliffe grew from being an unknown back-bencher to a prominent House Republican over the course of two years, in large part because of his staunch defense of the president during the GOP-led investigation into FBI and Justice Department decision-making during the 2016 election, headlined by his questioning of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE last week. 


The Associated Press: Doubts emerge about Trump pick for U.S. intelligence chief.


ABC News: Trump’s pick for intelligence director misrepresented role in anti-terror case. 





> DCCC chaos: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) was beset by turmoil Monday after a series of internal meetings led to the exodus of six senior staffers amid complaints from House Democrats about the lack of staff diversity and DCCC Chairwoman Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi accuses Trump of 'bribery' in Ukraine dealings DCCC adds senior staffers after summer departures DCCC raises more than M in October MORE’s (D-Ill.) inability to keep promises to various factions of the House Democratic Caucus. 


After a series of stories, Politico reported late Monday that after Allison Jaslow resigned as executive director, five additional senior staffers followed suit after a lengthy meeting at party headquarters. Bustos attended the session after flying back to Washington. 


The episode underscores the level of discontent with Bustos throughout the House Democratic ranks. According to one House Democrat, Bustos made promises to lawmakers of all stripes in her bid to take over the reigns from Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), a main reason for the fallout she and the committee are experiencing only seven months after she took over as chair. 


“It’s the Monday Night Massacre at DCCC,” one lawmaker said. “Cheri campaigned as all things to all people, Telling blue dogs one thing, telling progressives another. So inevitably once in office she would disappoint them.”


Among some, the committee’s day of meetings was a source of mockery, especially after a largely drama-free cycle under Luján, the No. 4 House Democrat, who ultimately landed the plane last cycle en route to taking back the House.


More than anything, Democrats believe the party’s campaign apparatus needs an infusion of know-how at the highest levels. As one external source put it: “They need some adults in there.”


The committee released a statement late Monday announcing that Jacqueline Newman would take over as executive director on an interim basis and that the committee’s executive council will conduct a search for a new permanent executive director. According to one senior aide, Bustos has empowered the senior staffers on the council “to offer recommendations,” adding that she “followed their recommendations in this restructure” (The Hill). 


> Saudi Arabia: The Senate failed on Monday to override vetoes by the president that would have blocked his arms deal with Saudi Arabia, dealing another setback to lawmakers trying to target Riyadh. 


Senators voted 45-40, 45-39 and 46-41 on the override attempts, falling well short of the two-thirds majority needed to nix Trump’s veto, marking the third, fourth and fifth time Congress has tried (and failed) to override a Trump veto this year.    


The arms deal, which Trump announced publicly in June, is estimated to be worth more than $8 billion. Trump used an “emergency” provision in the Arms Export Control Act to bypass the 30-day congressional notification requirement to make the deal (The Hill).


The Hill: Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills Key negotiator says deal close on surprise medical bills legislation Senate passes bipartisan bill to permanently fund historically black colleges MORE’s (D-Wash.) move raises impeachment pressure on Schumer. 


Politico: Judge seeks compromise in fight over Trump’s state tax returns.


WHITE HOUSE: Trump extended a weekend of Twitter bashing aimed at Baltimore and a powerful African American committee chairman, Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsImpeachment can't wait Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Tucker Carlson calls Trump 'full-blown BS artist' in segment defending him from media coverage MORE (D-Md.), by lashing out at the Rev. Al Sharpton on Monday, accusing him of hating “Whites & Cops” and of being a “con man.” Sharpton fired back from Baltimore hours after Trump’s tweet, saying the president has a “particular venom for blacks and people of color” (The Hill).


The Hill: Trump says he’ll meet with “inner-city pastors” amid the racial controversies he stirred.


The Hill: House Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Trump, first lady take part in National Christmas Tree lighting Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown MORE (R-N.C.) insists neither Trump nor colleague Cummings is a racist.


Niall Stanage: With Trump constantly dialing up the rhetoric on race, just how inflammatory could the atmosphere become, and how dangerous is it for the nation?


The Atlantic: What Elijah Cummings once told Trump in private.


The Associated Press: After Trump’s attacks against Cummings, the president asked advisers on Monday how the tweets played on television.


The Associated Press: Suburban female voters recoil as Trump dives into racial politics.


The president’s critics continued this week to point to his son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerDemocrat calls for investigation of possible 'inappropriate influence' by Trump in border wall contract Judge temporarily halts construction of a private border wall in Texas Mueller witness linked to Trump charged in scheme to illegally funnel money to Clinton campaign MORE, as a Baltimore rental property owner with a less-than-sterling reputation (“The Beleaguered Tenants of ‘Kushnerville,’” ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, May 2017). 


> Clemency: Trump on Monday commuted the prison sentence of Ronen Nahmani, a non violent, first-time offender, citing “extenuating circumstances” involving his family. He was convicted in 2015 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to distribute a synthetic drug known as spice. Trump, who commuted the sentence of another inmate and pardoned five others on Monday, cited Nahmani’s bipartisan advocates in Congress and in the legal community, who recommended his release (The Hill).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Trump’s intelligence shake-up could be his most dangerous move yet, by David Ignatius, foreign affairs columnist, The Washington Post. 


Climate policy is expensive, but so is climate change, by Shahir Masri, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson; Briahna Gray, national press secretary for the Sanders presidential campaign; Emma Vigeland, correspondent with “The Young Turks,” who previews the Detroit debates this week; New Hampshire political reporter Paul Steinhauser, who expands on his recent Concord Monitor interview with Warren; and Elizabeth Spiers, founder of The Insurrection, who has written about House Democrats and impeachment deliberations. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House is in recess through August and will return to Washington on Sept. 9.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a 10 a.m. hearing on the nomination of U.S. Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hyten has been accused of sexual assault by Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser (The Hill). ...The Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee meets at 10 a.m. for a hearing about "Regulatory Frameworks for Digital Currencies and Blockchain." ...The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hears testimony at 10 a.m. from Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, about "Unprecedented Migration at the U.S. Southern Border: What Is Required to Improve Conditions?"  


The president will speak this morning in Jamestown, Va., to mark the 400th anniversary of the first representative legislative assembly. Trump will sign legislation titled the “Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service (LEGION) Act” at 4 p.m.


Vice President Pence heads to Lancaster, Ohio, to deliver remarks this morning at Magna Seating, a mobility technology company that supplies the automotive industry and expects to create 300 jobs. Pence returns to Washington today.


Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinWorld Bank approves billion-plus annual China lending plan despite US objections On The Money: Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown | Trump asks Supreme Court to shield financial records from House Democrats | House passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading Hillicon Valley: Pelosi works to remove legal protections for tech companies from USMCA | Treasury sanctions Russian group over 0 million hack | Facebook sues Chinese individuals for ad fraud | Huawei takes legal action against FCC MORE, along with U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerPelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House On The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports MORE, is in Shanghai through Wednesday for trade negotiations with Vice Premier Liu He of China. The president and his top advisers have tempered public expectations about the outcome (CNBC).


The Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting, which will wrap up on Wednesday afternoon with a policy statement and press conference with Chairman Jerome Powell. Many on Wall Street anticipate the central bank could vote to cut the federal funds rate by a quarter-point (CNBC). And while we’re at it, read this smart New York Times article: “A recession is coming (eventually). Here’s where you’ll see it first.”


Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis at 8:30 a.m. releases a report on U.S. personal income and outlays in June.


Medicaid politics: Advocates for the expansion of Medicaid to provide health coverage to more low-income recipients are taking their arguments straight to the voters, a strategy that achieved some success last year in several Republican-led states. Campaigns in Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri and South Dakota are in the early stages of securing spots on ballots next year (The Hill).


Moscow: Alexei Navalny, 43, a Russian opposition leader and critic of President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinGOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties We have now reached a code red moment in American democracy Jane Harman: NATO must use its brain cells to battle these threats MORE who is serving a 30-day sentence in jail for organizing an unsanctioned protest, was returned to his cell from a hospital on Monday after developing symptoms his physician said could be reactions to a chemical agent and his lawyer said could be poison. Tensions continue to run high in Russia; on Saturday, baton-wielding police confronted protesters in what some described as the largest unsanctioned protest in the country in a decade (The Associated Press).


Cyber security: Capital One announced on Monday that a hacker gained access to 100 million credit card applications, and investigators said thousands of Social Security and bank account numbers were taken. The FBI made one arrest (The Washington Post). ...Meanwhile, Tom Bossert, Trump’s former National Security Council homeland security specialist who departed when John BoltonJohn BoltonThe shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley The key impeachment hearings are before an appeals court, not the House Judiciary panel Beyond the myth of Sunni-Shia wars in the Middle East MORE arrived, is now in the private sector, trying, he says, to make malicious hackers feel some pain (WIRED). "If we don’t change the equation to something that actually stops and prevents and imposes costs on the adversary, we’re not going to get in front of the problem," Bossert said.


Bush 43: PBS’s “American Experience” documentary series will look at the “evolution” of former President George W. Bush’s character and how it shaped his time in office during a two-part program titled “W,” to air next spring (The Associated Press). 


“When history marches on, there will be a little more objective look about the totality of this administration,” Bush told an interviewer in 2008, his final year in office. “Dealing with liberating 25 million in Afghanistan is part of what I hope people think of when they look at my presidency. Being the first president to propose a two-state solution on Israel and Palestine. ...And I'm happy with Iraq. The right—the decision to [re]move Saddam Hussein was right, and this democracy is now taking root. And I'm confident that if America does not become isolationist and allow the terrorists to take back over, Iraq will succeed.”





And finally …  The next time astronauts break space-travel barriers, it may be for a manned mission to Mars. The round-trip journey is expected to take up to three years, and astronauts may have to grow some of their own food, making the question of nutrition a challenge. Eyeing a goal of food gardening, NASA plans to grow chiles in space. (For fans of the movie “The Martian,” chiles may be the botanical alternative to cinematic potatoes) (The New York Times).